$3.8 million La Jolla Shores lifeguard tower faces remodel due to distorted window views

By Ashley Mackin

At the La Jolla Shores Association (LJSA) monthly meeting Feb. 12, lifeguard Ben Lewis updated the board on measures being taken to improve visibility at the new Shores lifeguard tower, which, during certain times of day, has distorted views that complicate the jobs of lifeguards stationed there. These plans include a redesign and partial rebuild of the $3.8 million tower.

As previously reported in

La Jolla Light

, San Diego Lifeguard Union spokesperson Ed Harris said at several times of the day the views from the upper observation booth are obscured by light distortion, diffraction, refraction, glare and reflection.

At the LJSA meeting, Lewis added that because images bounce off the panes of glass in the observation booth, it creates “ghost images” — people appearing to be on one end of the beach when they are actually at another. “We have to do a double- take sometimes to determine what is real and what is not,” he said.

Further, when the sun sets due west and further and further south (which it does during the winter months), it creates a “blinding” glare off the ocean, which comes straight at the windows.

The windows, in turn, bounce that glare off the other windows, whereas at other towers the angles of the windows bounce any glare onto the ceiling.

Lewis said that because the tower opened during summer, lifeguards could not see nor predict view issues that would arise during the winter months and the change in sunset location at that time.

As a temporary solution, lifeguards spend approximately four hours a day at Tower 32 with a similar vantage point, when the glare and distortion are at their worst.

In the meantime, a remodel is in development for the upper observation booth that would change the glass and its angles, and rebuild the upper booth to accommodate the new angles.

A typical lifeguard tower is built in a hexagonal shape with five panes of glass that meet at about a 15-degree angle that minimizes glare and distortion, Lewis said. The Shores tower has three panes of glass that meet at 90 degrees each, which, in addition to the quality of the glass used, is a likely cause of the problem.

Greg Parkington, a representative for District 1 City Councilmember Sherri Lightner, explained at the meeting that Lightner met with the City Attorney’s office and the department of public works regarding the issue.

“Our office subcontracted an optics engineer independent of the designer of the original tower to study that glass in a quick timeframe to ensure whatever solution is implemented is the right solution and we’re not just tearing things down,” he said, adding that they hope to have a solution implemented by the summer. The City Attorney is involved to determine any recourse from the original designer.

In other LJSA news

■ North comfort station cost goes up:

Mary Coakley-Munk, president of the Friends of La Jolla Shores nonprofit group spearheading the new station, suffered a blow when an extra $70,000 was added to construction costs.

“On Jan. 6 we had a wonderful ground-breaking ceremony on the north comfort station,” Coakley- Munk said. “And then on Jan. 7, I got a call from (the Department of) Park and Rec saying the City Attorney decided we needed a coastal development permit and a site development permit, and that there would have to be prevailing wage because the right of entry was not signed by the first of January, and the laws changed (Jan. 1, 2014).”

However, with much help from Park and Rec, it was later determined the two permits were not required. However, the Friends can not avoid paying prevailing wage, which means an additional $70,000 will be due as the project nears completion.

“I am certainly not going to go back to the (John G. Watson Foundation) family that donated half a million dollars, and ask them for more, so we’ll need to raise some money,” she said. “So any help along those lines would be greatly appreciated.”

Because the extra costs are not due until the end of project, construction on the new facility will begin shortly and Coakley-Munk is confident the money will be raised by the time it is due. “We are moving forward, full-steam ahead and on schedule,” she later told La Jolla Light.

The former facility was torn down Feb. 13 and the new facility is expected to be complete this summer.

■ Unexpected work on Avenida de la Playa:

Izzy Tihanyi, co-owner of Surf Diva in La Jolla Shores, reported that much to her surprise, construction work had begun on Avenida de la Playa that involved cutting into the concrete, and that none of the affected business owners she spoke with were notified.

Unsure if the work is related to Job 809 — which involves replacing the 50-year-old storm drain at the end of Avenida de la Playa, and 1,300 feet of piping leading up to it, and repairing more than 9,000 feet of sewer and water pipes throughout the Shores — she voiced concern that contractors for Job 809 had assured the street would not be subject to concrete cutting and/or trenching.

“We asked them point blank if the (trenching) would include Avenida de la Playa and we were told it wasn’t going to. It was never part of the deal,” she said.

Voicing similar concerns, Christian Malecot, owner of Voulez-Vous Bistro, said all his customers had to sit inside due to construction noise one day, which he called “unbearable.”

He recalled hearing a presentation about the project and noting that Avenida de la Playa was on the project map, but it was never stated to what extent.

“Contractors never verbally said it was going to be under construction,” he said. “... It feels like they pulled a fast one on us.”

Parkington assured he would find out the nature of the work, if it is related to Job 809, how long the work would take place, and why business owners were not notified.

■ Upcoming election:

The LJSA will have its annual election during the next meeting. There are eight open seats, but several board members intend to run for re-election. The meeting, will be 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 12 at 8840 Biological Grade.